Baseball team struggles in region play

BATTER+UP%3A+Junior+catcher+Ben+Lepik+awaits+a+turn+in+the+batting+cage+during+an+after-school+practice.+The+Knights+varsity+baseball+team+finished+10-16+this+season.

BATTER UP: Junior catcher Ben Lepik awaits a turn in the batting cage during an after-school practice. The Knight’s varsity baseball team finished 10-16 this season.

The baseball team started the season strong, but struggled in its region games to miss the playoffs for a fourth straight year.

The Knights began the season 9-4 against their out of region schedule, beating teams with good hitting and lots of runs scored. The offense averaged over 10 runs per game in the Knights’ first 13 games.

  “We were hitting very well in our out of region games, and I think that’s why we did so well,” senior Luke Levens said. “We needed to continue that trend more in the region games.”

  In the region games, the Grady offense has averaged just 2.6 runs per game, while allowing 8.5 runs per game during that 14 game stretch.

  “We just have to come out with more energy and start having fun again,” coach Darryl Farley said. “Baseball is a relaxed game; we just have to start having fun again.”

   Getting runs is not Grady’s only problem; the Knights are very short-handed at the pitching position. Many high school teams have players that play the pitcher position only, but the Knights have no such player, and only have pitchers that prefer another position first.

“We do not have designated pitchers, we only have players that have filled into the position.” Levens said. “It has caused us to give up more runs and it is hard to play from behind in baseball.”

  Farley is in his first year as the Knights coach, and stepping into the role was tough at first, but is getting better with time. He has begun rebuilding the program as a whole by getting the players to trust his process.

“We have learned that we need to just work a lot harder,” Levens said. “It’s all about having fun and being comfortable on the field, but it is difficlult to play baseball if you are not fully focused.”

   Despite the team not making the playoffs, it has made very noticable improvements from recent seasons. In 2017 it went 4-19; so the team this year has more than doubled its win total. The Knights have also played some playoff teams close, including a 3-2 loss to Riverwood, who is 10-6 in the region.

  “The team is still getting better despite our struggles,” Farley said. “We are also getting bigger teams each year, so, as long as we can keep some of the guys we have and continue to train the younger guys, the future is bright.”

  The overall talent level has been down the past few years, although there have been several exceptional players. Coaches are focusing on development to turn the program around.

  “It all starts with the feeder programs like the Inman team and the junior varsity team,” Farley said. “We need to coach kids up so that they play from a younger age.”

   The last time the baseball team made the playoffs was 2014, when this year’s seniors were in 8th grade. That team was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.

“Making the playoffs would have been a good ending to my high school career,” Levens said. “It was still fun for all four years, and there was still a lot of competitive baseball.”

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